COVID-19 News update April 27- May 1
This week’s news is relatively short due to the May holiday in the Netherlands. We bring news from Denmark and China on reopening of schools with a clear message to reassure parents by communicating clearly how a school implements new health policies, how students are adapting to the new situation, a summary of the accountability hearing in England and Ofsted’s work during the pandemic, and lastly the guidelines published in the Netherlands on physical education when reopening schools.
Reassuring parent and school staff: communicating specific measures (with visuals) to parents
Schools in the Netherlands will open their doors next week on the 11th of May but parents and school staff are concerned about their own health. In a parliamentary debate last Wednesday, Minister Slob pleaded for leniency for teachers who do not want to teach in class due to worries about their health as well as for parents who do not want to send their child to school. Minister Slob advised that these teachers should consult with the school about alternative options such as providing home education.
An article in the TES describes how schools in Denmark and China deal with concerns from school staff and parents. For example, the school staff were brought into a school one day before reopening to help them see the new measures outlined above and other measures in place to keep them safe. For instance, schools have marked the walking direction in the school cafeteria with tape to measure out 1,5 waiting spaces and seating arrangements. A school in Denmark has provided parents detailed explanations via email of the health and safety measures taken, including photos of the physical infrastructure, allowing parents to see these measures whilst not being allowed to enter the school building. Families with health issues have been reassured that it is fine to keep their children at home.
How do children cope with the reopening of schools?
A primary school principal in Denmark explains how children adjusting to the new situation. They are for example learning the importance of being able to evaluate and assess their work as teachers can’t peek over their shoulder when working. As a result they are becoming more reflective and independent. Even in smaller tasks like opening a water bottle which now have to be done without the help of an adult.
Parliamentary hearing on COVID-19 and inspection
As schools are closed, inspections in the Netherlands and England (as in many other countries) have also been suspended until at least after the summer break. In a parliamentary hearing in England last Monday, chief inspector Amanda Spielman, was questioned about 1) when she expects Ofsted inspections to start again, 2) how inspectors can support schools and teachers during the pandemic, 3) whether the suspension of children’s homes and services is leaving a blind spot in terms of vulnerable children, and 4) whether she expects the gaps between the least deprived and most deprived areas to widen as a result of COVID-19. She responded by saying that she does not expect inspections before the summer. She added that Ofsted will not, when the inspections start again, assess the education a school has provided during COVID-19; evaluating quality of homeschooling and remote learning is not part of its legislative remit and inspection framework.
Ofsted inspectors who now have time on their hands are volunteering their services in helping schools in mentoring pupils. However, there is no perceived need for additional capacity from the school sector at the moment.
Moreover, Spielman clarified that Ofsted continues emergency inspection of children’s homes and regulatory work where it is needed but there hasn’t been a need to go into homes.
Last, Spielman responded that Covid-19 is clearly going to present the biggest problem for the poorest, the lowest achieving academically and the least motivated children and thus will widen gaps, especially in the short term. The current inspection framework, which focuses on the school curriculum, will allow schools to assess whether and how to catch up when schools reopen and she expects that schools will therefore not be penalized for the closure in future inspections.
You can read the fully transcript of the hearing here)
The union for physical education teachers (KVLO) in the Netherlands has developed a physical education protocol for schools that are reopening. The physical education protocol advices outdoors teaching until June 2 to reduce the risk of spreading. If no outdoor accommodation is available, or this is undesirable (for example in special needs education), then only moderately intensive activities can be provided in an indoor accommodation (gym / playroom).